By Mark Ramsey | 2004/04/04

When you’re coming from Hell, there’s nowhere to go but up.

I never thought I’d root for a character with rice cakes on his forehead and I’m certainly not going to start now.

Yes, I know they’re not supposed to be rice cakes. Hellboy files down his horns to stumps in an effort, this movie tells us, “to fit in.” Even if it means fitting in to a low fat, low cholesterol diet.

Hellboy and his rice cakes are on a mission to protect Earth – or at least Earth’s snack food aisle: “The power of Quaker Oats compels you!”

Our hero is stricken with an affliction: One hand is grossly larger than the other, a symbolic warning of the dangers of masturbation. A horny guy with a hideously deformed hand? They don’t call it his “right hand of doom” for nothing. As if the sudden outbreak of rice cake acne wasn’t clear and present danger enough!

hellboy_badricecakeday.jpgHellboy is a lonely, isolated outsider, yet strong and brave and noble. All this symbolic representation of goodness hidden in the shadows of alienation and repressed sexuality is exactly the reason for the appeal (such as it is) of Hellboy. But consider this: If everybody feels like they don’t belong, then who is doing the belonging, anyway?

The answer can only be: Girls!

Scanning the audience, roughly 90 percent was male, perched as they precariously were at the intersection of extended adolescence and abundant free time. Said one later: “I’m going to keep my humiliating presence here a secret from any female, should I be lucky enough to ever encounter one.”

The leader of this Hellboy’s choir is brooding, grumpy Ron Perlman, with a face only a casting agent seeking a character actor could love. Ron plays Hellboy like the John Wayne of the underworld with a dash of quirky, self-effacing humor. Hey, if Hellboy is Lucy-fer, where’s his Desi-fer?

Enter Selma Blair as LoveObjectGirl. She’s a fire-starter, meaning she glows a hot-blue color and makes stuff around her explode into flame, yet her untouched clothing must be some newfangled asbestos fiber that remains cool as a cucumber even in the most furious inferno. As an actress, Selma has never generated this much heat before and she’s certainly not likely to again.

hellboy_cher.jpg“Hellboy” is the name Ron’s adopted dad lovingly coined for him, presumably because it had fewer syllables than equally sentimental alternatives like Satan-Spawn and Nathan Damnation.

“There is a dark place where ancient evil slumbers,” croaks dad John Hurt as IanMcKellenboy, the distinguished and slightly daffy scientist who raises Hellboy to fight Satan’s minions fueled by a steady supply of Baby Ruths. I’ve heard of the Devil’s Candy, but I didn’t know it contained chewy nougat!

Thanks to Hellboy I learned some valuable history. Namely, that the Nazis exploited some black magic mojo in their zealous stab at world domination, and that President Roosevelt had a Paranormal Advisor, thus launching a trend that reaches its zenith today when every Presidential Advisor is paranormal at best.

Yes, the Nazis are attempting to summon the Seven Gods of Chaos to enter this world through a portal, something MTV has been doing for years on The Real World.

I don’t know about you, but Armageddon tired of movies that culminate in a life or death struggle with the existence of mankind hanging in the balance. Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s been there and done that at the end of each and every one of her seven seasons.

True to form, IanMcKellenboy has a vision of a cataclysmic future: There in the smoky rubble of a dead landscape is a newspaper with a banner headline: “Apocalypse.” You know, if and when the end of the world comes who exactly is going to be reading about it in the morning paper?!

Hellboy is pitted against a Ninja Nazi who inexplicably takes out dozens of armed soldiers who would rather fling themselves against him in a suicidal fervor than simply pull a trigger or two.

Hellboy is a movie that takes no chances. The budget flows freely only when it comes to CGI, because the cast is straight out of the bargain bin. You could find bigger names on any page of the LA phone book – especially if your finger lands on the number for Promises Rehab Center.

Considering the genre, Hellboy is okay. It’s little more than the starting bell for the comically inclined Spring and Summer seasons.

I’ll never again buy a rice cake without recognizing that I’m supporting a cause much greater than bland food alone. As a character, Hellboy is supposed to be a fierce avenger for humanity, but somewhere between the comic panel and the silver screen, this Hellboy hath no fury like a rice cake scorned.

Photos Copyright ©2004 Columbia Pictures


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